Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New name

For the purposes of helping my many readers (you know who you are). I am changing this blog name to Nick Geranios. My original identity as Dick Cleveland was created back in the dark times when reporters were discouraged from having blogs lest they betray some biases. Those days are over, in part because we have no biases.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tonight we dine in Hell!

Once again I worked the annual Greek food festival at my church in Spokane. I run the takeout tent, serving hundreds of dinners per night and trying to impart a little of my culture to the customers. This year I decided to employ a visual aid, in the form of this Spartan military helmet. I hoped to look like a warrior from the movie ``300,'' and believe I succeeded.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Recession Road Trip

I recently wrote a travel article about one of my summer trips. here it is:


By Nicholas K. Geranios

SPOKANE, Wash. _ Can you be broke and still enjoy an epic road trip?

Like much of the nation, we had a difficult summer, financially speaking. But when it came time for vacation, I had no intention of staycating.

Along with my two youngest sons, 15-year-old Tom and 13-year-old Eli, I decided to drive through the West, from the Rocky Mountains just outside Spokane, Wash., to the lights of Las Vegas, the grandeur of Lake Tahoe and the high desert of Bend, Ore.

We needed to maximize fun while minimizing cost. It wasn’t that hard to pull off.

First, we ditched the comfort of the SUV and drove my wife’s Volvo S70 (she was starting a new job and couldn’t come, increasing the difficulty of remaining austere in our spending). That decision doubled our gas mileage. Here’s a summary of our Recession Road Trip from July 31 to Aug. 9.

Day One:
I got off work Friday evening and we piled into the car and drove five hours from Spokane to Butte, Mont., where we stayed with my mother-in-law for free. Dinner was Dairy Queen in Missoula, Mont. ($21.56), while gas for this leg was $56.82.

Day Two:
After a lovely breakfast of Safeway donuts and coffee ($15.36, including some road munchies), it was off to Salt Lake City. We stopped at Chili’s in Idaho Falls, dropping $45 on lunch, and filled up the car in Malad for $31. I had found a room on-line at the Radisson in downtown Salt Lake for $80, plus $10 to park. It was right next to the Mormon temple. We met my friend Linda for dinner at a swanky Greek restaurant, which set me back some $120. It was our priciest meal, but anything Greek is well worth the cost.

Day Three:
We had breakfast at Starbucks ($13), checked out of the Radisson, and went to Lagoon, a big amusement park in Salt Lake. With discount coupons from a Coke promotion, the three of us got in for just under $100. We spent the day frolicking in 100-degree heat. Lunch was Arby’s in the park for $25. That evening, we got into the car and drove for four hours to Saint George, Utah, where my mom and brother live. Dinner was at Sizzler in Provo ($41). I filled the car up for $17. We pulled into Saint George about 11 p.m. and slept at my brother’s house.

Days Four-Five
We bummed around Saint George for two days, visiting family and eating mostly at home. I spent $22 taking four people to a matinee, $25 on two trips to Starbucks for afternoon coffee, $28 for gasoline, plus $12.37 for lunch one day at Bajio Grill.

Day Six
My boys are big fans of the Ocean’s 11 movies, and I had promised to show them Vegas on this trip. I booked a room at Luxor for $50! (that’s lower than the daily rate of my mortgage!). We drove the two hours to Vegas from Saint George and checked into the hotel. We walked the Strip to Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville (I am an unrepentant Parrot Head), and dropped $60 on lunch.

My $50 room deal also included $50 in free slot machine credit at the Venetian, so we walked there and I lost the money while the boys explored the lavish casino.
On the way back to Luxor we stopped at a discount booth and bought tickets to that night’s Rick Thomas magic show in the Sahara ($55 for three).

We enjoyed the 100-degree afternoon temps at the Luxor’s massive swimming pool complex (free) and then showered and got ready for the show. Since Vegas casinos have free parking, we drove the length of the Strip to the Sahara.
We got there early, so I sent the boys to the casino’s arcade while I played a few hands of $1 blackjack and drank a $1 beer. Nothing illustrates how hard the recession has hit Vegas than the existence of $1 gaming tables on the strip.

We enjoyed the show, where Thomas made tigers, motorcycles and showgirls disappear, then drove quickly back to the Luxor to hit the dinner buffet ($57 for three) before it closed. Still frisky, we walked over to New York, New York, where the boys dove into the sports arcade games at the ESPN Zone ($15). I took the free time to play a few slots, and won $75 on a penny slot. I quit while I was ahead, and we headed back to our spacious room and slept like the dead.

Day Seven:

We got up early, had breakfast at Starbucks ($21) and hit the road for South Lake Tahoe, Calif., where my oldest son was spending the summer. I spent $25 to top off the gas tank. This was an all-day drive through the desert, and I passed time by inventing how various buildings in the distance were part of Area 51 and contained alien spaceships or bodies. We had lunch at Rita’s ($33) in the town of Beatty, Nev., a gateway to Death Valley. We rolled into South Lake Tahoe late in the evening and checked into the Horizon Casino, which I had booked for $60. We ate at the rather poor but cheap buffet ($32) and relaxed.

Day Eight:
We spent the entire day with my 20-year-old son Kon. That included some shopping to pick up clothes and groceries for him, lunch at IHOP ($47), a matinee showing of Public Enemies ($30) and some time lounging at the Holiday Inn Express. We changed hotels because the rate at the Horizon jumped to $190 for Friday night, and I got the Holiday Inn room for free after cashing in my points to the Holiday Inn Priority Club. That evening we hit a lavish seafood buffet at Harrah’s (cost only $107 for four!). For those of you keeping score, that’s three buffet dinners in three nights. Welcome to travel with boys.

Day Nine:
Another long day in the car. After our free breakfast at the hotel, we bid my son goodbye, put $45 into the tank, and headed to Sacramento and then north up Interstate 5. We had lunch at Arby’s ($16), put $18 in gas into the car, and rolled late in the day into Bend, OR. Not sure how far we would be able to go, I had no reservation and we had trouble finding a room. I finally found a place on about my 10th call, at an independent hotel called the Bend Inn for $97. We ate at Round Table Pizza for dinner ($24).

Day Ten:
Homecoming day. We hit the free breakfast at the hotel, put $35 into the gas tank (in Oregon they have to pump the gas, it’s the law), then drove for three hours to Richland, Wash. Lunch at Dairy Queen ($18), $24 more in gas and then two more hours of driving placed us back in Spokane.

The final toll showed three people traveled for 10 days through eight states, with five nights at hotels and four sleeping at the home of relatives. Total tab: About $1,588.

Adventure: Priceless

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Grateful Vegas Jacket

I recently attended my first Grateful Deadish-style event when a friend took me to a concert by Ratdog, Dead singer Bob Weir's other band. It was a hugely entertaining evening of jam music. Because I don't own any tie-dye, I figured the Vegas Jacket was the most psychedelic thing I could wear. Thanks to the generally sedated nature of the crowd, the Jacket was clearly not the overwhelming presense it normally can be, and for that we can all be grateful. If only I could have worn it to Woodstock. The photo shows me, the Jacket, a libation and tennis buddy Sarah, who was at the concert with her husband Jeff. These two veteran deadheads were following Ratdog across its Northwest tour, also hitting seattle, missoula and boise before heading east towards Omaha. Happy trails, my friends.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Tennis king

Another spectacular tennis season came to an end for me in Sun River, OR., in August, when my mixed doubles team played well in the Pacific Northwest championships, but failed to advance to nationals.

Here's a picture of me in ``action'' in Sun River.

Cappy is Fancy

Took Cappy to the dog groomer this week for a bath and haircut. She came back looking very fancy, with ribbons in her ears.


went down to phoenix for a writing conference in mid-September. This is good news in that the company continues to invest in my development. It's bad news if you consider that after 27 years I still need lessons in how to write.

Saw my daughter down there, and she is loving her new job.

I absolutely loved Phoenix. Temps around 105, cigar lounges where you could buy and smoke a stogie on premises, a Margaritaville restaurant, outdoor pools everywhere. Here's a pix of me outside a favorite restaurant in Phoenix. I like it mostly because of its name, Le Grande Orange, which reminded me of former Montreal Expo Rusty Staub, the original grande orange. I explained this to Miranda, who wondered what a Montreal Expo was.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Summer News

Miranda has started her new job as a management trainee for Houston's steakhouses. I'll be visiting her this weekend. Miranda has left was her dog Cappy to watch while she embarks on her adult life. Cappy is my little friend.

I was back in action covering Washington State football on Saturday. Another loss, but they looked decent. My Montana State Bobcats were routed by Michigan State, but the flatlanders still have much higher unemployment, na na nana na.

If you are reading this, you might be suffering from Internet addiction.

I went out on my boat four times this summer. Sigh.
The photo shows tom and i outside saint george, utah in the red rock desert

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Journey Across the West, the full story

I'm sure it gets boring listening to my vacation stories, but, seriously, that's all I did this year. Started with the drive from Waterville, Maine to Spokane. When I last wrote, we had started our epic journey from spokane to Vegas, California and back to Spokane.

The trip was great. Tom, Eli, my niece Corina and I drove down to Saint George, Utah, where we stayed with my brother Jim, his family, and my Mom for three nights.

Then I took the boys to Vegas, where we hit Margaritaville, the big pools at Luxor, a magician show and the buffet, with shorter stops in between. Luxor was $50 a night!

Then we drove from Vegas to South Lake Tahoe to visit Kon, staying two nights. Then it was back to Spokane via a stop in Bend, ore.

A week later we were on the road again, back to Bend for a USTA mixed doubles tennis tournament. My team did well down there, and I went 3-3, proving that .500 tennis is my trademark. Ann came down also and played with her team, then hitched a ride home as the boys and i went on to Portland for Tom to play in junior tennis sectionals. We spent a day at Cannon Beach also.

Finally, after taking most of August off, we returned to the workaday life in Spokane. i am presently allowed to spend no money as we pay off our vacations.

Miranda has gotten a job as a management trainee with the restaurant chain that owns Houston's and other fancy places. I'm going to see her in a week.

Here are some vaca pix.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Journey across the West, Part I

The first two days of our epic journey across the west passed safely. I worked until Friday afternoon, then piled tom, eli and corinna into the car and we drove to Butte, Mont., to spend the night with my mother in law. we had a tasty dinner at Dairy Queen in Missoula. since it was corinna's 13th birthday, we topped it all off with blizzards. but i chose a Dilly Bar, which you can eat while keeping one hand on the wheel. this led to the boys constantly referring to dad keeping a firm grip on his dilly bar while driving.

saturday we covered the 400 miles from butte to salt lake city, stopping at chili's in idaho falls for a horrible and expensive lunch (I'm thinking barf).
we pulled into the radisson in downtown salt lake, whose opulance stunned the children.
we had dinner at a Greek restaurant that night with my old work friend Linda. I learned bad news about Rory, God be with him
Our meal was excellent. I ordered stuffed green peppers. eli had pastitso. we drank non resinated wine, and then repaired to the hotel for an after-dinner drink. I thought i would have to join the hotel bar club, but it turned out that law has been overturned.
tomorrow, we hit the lagoon theme park and then on to Saint George!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Nelson wedding

Here we are preparing to attend the recent wedding of my nephew Jack at Flathead Lake, Montana.
That's me tastefully dressed in the Vegas jacket, giving a godfather vibe. The blonde to the right is the old ball and chain. Behind are Eli, Miranda and Tom. Sonny is not in the picture.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Legends of Hoopfest

As a sportswriter, I have covered some amazing teams: the 1985 Chicago Bears, the 1997 Washington State football team, the 1999 Gonzaga Bulldogs. All of these were superior to the 2009 edition of the Associated Pressers who took the field at the 20th annual Hoopfest 3-on-3 basketball tournament.

Yet somehow the Pressers also became a team of destiny. A fearsome foursome that posted a 5-2 record to finish second in the elite media division.

It was an amazing performance, put together by some amazing athletes: Josh Christian, Brian Herrin, Carey Williams and yours truly. Both our losses came at the hands of the champion 406ers, a team of television journalists and noted ringers from Missoula, Mont. I hate those guys.
The tournament plays out on the hot pavement of downtown Spokane, where some 26,000 hoops warriors battle for pride, honor and t-shirts.
I shall summarize the saga.
During a four-game marathon on Saturday, we opened play at 8 am by beating The Inlander, Spokane's free weekly, in overtime. That was followed by an overtime loss to the 406ers, a team with no players beyond their 20s. We recovered to easily pummel the Paperboys, representing both Spokane's daily newspaper and the sad state of print journalism today. Finally we laid waste to The Inlander again in a rematch (perhaps they should become a weakly instead of a weekly).
Sunday, in loser out play, we looked sharp in a win over the Eastern Washington University PR department (payback for those huge tuition increases). That put us in the championship game against the 406ers. We stunned those pretty boy golden throats with a narrow win. But it's a double elimination tournament so we had to play them again.
Playing our seventh game of the tournament, we had nothing in the tank and fell to these callow punks again. They hoisted the special media division trophy, which consists of a brick mounted on a pedestal, while the crowd (or at least our families) showered us with applause. The second place prize is a special runner-up t-shirt, and I immediately donned mine and spent the rest of the afternoon walking through the crowd, pointing it out to people I knew and didn't know.
The photo shows, from left, Carey, Josh, Brian and myself. Remember those names (mine is Nick, FYI). We'll be back.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Team of Destiny

This weekend I played in the Eastern Washington mixed doubles tennis championships, and posted a sterling 5-0 record to qualify for the Pacific Northwest championships in Sun River in August. It's one of my best performances ever.

Of course, I didn't do this alone. For one thing, it was mixed doubles, so there was a woman present on my side of the court. To those ladies I say, thanks for carrying me like a crippled rhino.

Here is a photo of my stalwart team. In front it's Chris. Second row is Kari, Vera, Char and Michelle. Back row is Brad, Michael and The Flying Greek.

I've been having such a good season that I'm thinking of writing a tennis how-to book, with the title ``In My World It's Always 40-Love.''

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Journey Across America, Day Five

The photo shows the Rockies heading into Bozeman.
We make up on Day 5 in Butte, looking at a five hour trip to Spokane. We exjoy a fine breakfast and chat with Dot, get our oil changed, and hit the highway.
We stop in Missoula for lunch, then head for home. The hours seem to move slower the closer we get to Spokane.
Finally, our drive comes to an end at 2 pm as we pull up to our home. We are very excited to be home.

Journey Across America, Day Four

Miranda wakes up in a cranky mood and we are in the car by 7 a.m. The trip across North Dakota is on roads that are flat and nearly empty, with a speed limit of 75. We get breakfast at Starbucks in Bismarck, famous as the city where I took the AP test. We also see a sign announcing the continental divide at an elevation of 1,400 feet. This makes me laugh because the divide in Montana is more than 6,000 feet up.

I also tell Miranda I nearly died on this stretch of I-94 decades ago when i was driving to a basketball tournament in Fargo. My Camaro was blown into a 360-degree turn on icy roads, but i kept it on the highway, straightened out, and kept on going. Telling that story always makes me feel like a Duke of Hazzard.

The landscape includes several statues of giant cows that we like.

We have a series of unfortunate stops in Eastern Montana. We pull off the road in Glendive after we see a McDonald's sign, but are told the restaurant is out of business and can find no other fast food joints. We drive an hour down the road to Miles City, where we find an excellent DQ. We eat, but forget to gas up the car. That means in another hour we are pulling over in Hysham to get gas. Three stops so soon is unprecedented for us.

I had hoped to stop at a Ralph Lauren outlet store in Billings, Montana's largest city, but we see no signs on the highway for it so we blast on through without stopping.

The snow covered spires of the Rockies suddenly appear, and two hours later we are in Bozeman, where I attended Montana State University.

We pull off for a walk in the charming downtown, and Cappy makes friends with numerous dogs. We eat a fine light dinner at a sidewalk cafe, then hit the road for 80 more miles to Butte, my wife's hometown.

We are staying with my mother-in-law Dorothy, and have a fine visit before falling exhausted into bed. I am troubled because the car is running very hot.
the photos show me in Bozeman, and Miranda in Waterville, just because we need a pix of her

Journey Across America, Day III

Thursday morning we are up early, and then plow through morning traffic towards Wisconsin. The tolls keep piling up as we cross Illinois, but end when we reach Wisconsin. However, those slick travel plazas also end, leaving us to exit the highway into strange towns when we need gas or food. One plaza is named for WWII correspondent Ernie Pyle, and this prompts me to contemplate how we journalists have become a simpering pile of stenographers worried about our 401Ks. Pyle, who died in the war, was a real reporter.

I drive for three solid hours, then pull over at a truck stop. We buy a bag of cheese curds and wheat thins for lunch, and i call Kon and wish him a Happy Birthday.

Miranda then takes the wheel for more than four hours, which is too long to go without stopping. We get to Minneapolis-St. Paul, and decide to drive through the city into the western suburbs before stopping. But traffic is heavy and this takes longer than expected. We finally pull off the road when we see a Quiznos, but it turns out to be closed. We spot a grocery store across the street and park there.

Miranda goes in first, while I stay outside with Cappy. But Miranda takes longer than expected, and I am dying to hit the can. So I go around to the side of the building, and relieve myself on the pavement. I look up to realize that I am actually standing on a hill in full view of eight lanes of I-90 traffic. I also have to hold my right arm straight out to keep Cappy from jumping into the spray, so it looks like I am signaling a left turn while peeing. This becomes the iconic scene of the trip so far.

When Miranda comes out, I run inside to buy some chicken wings, and we hit the road again. I tell Miranda about my outdoor evacuation, and she is silent for several miles.

We stop for gas in Sauk Centre, Minn., hometown of novelist Sinclair Lewis, eviscerator of small town mores. There are lots of signs announcing this connection, even though Lewis was brutal in his assessments of such places.

We had planned to put in an 11 hour day and stop in Fargo, but when we get there we decide we have a little more energy and push on for Valley City, ND. We reserve a room at a dog-friendly Super 8, but I am disappointed to find no national chain casual dining restaurants. I eat a charmless hamburger at a truck stop, while Miranda subsists on half a chocolate chip cookie. Our dinner costs $8, and the room is $80.

We fall asleep early after 12 hours of driving.

the photo shows North Dakota from our car window.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Journey Across America, Day II

We successfully completed our stay at a hotel just outside Erie, Pa., in which we had to sneak Cappy in and out of the room because they did not allow pets. We carried Cappy in a big bag. But the night was nerve-wracking because she would bark everytime someone walked down the hallway, and we were certain we would be kicked out. and also fined $100.

We stopped in a posh suburb of Cleveland to visit one of Miranda's school friends. Their estate was lovely and large, and Cappy got to run around for an hour while we enjoyed homemade scones and visited.

Then we made a hard push through driving rain past Toledo and into northern Indiana, the 7th state we had entered (Maine, New Hamp, Mass, NY, Penn and Ohio). I wanted to stop at Notre Dame for a pix of touchdown Jesus, but Miranda was not interested. Perhaps as punishment, a brake warning light went on as we passed through the industrial hell of Gary, Ind., and the car's power flickered. But it continued to operate and we limped into downtown Chicago, lost and a little spooked. I was able by dint of my earlier residence in the city, and the fact that i was a student of Lewis and Clark, to locate Greektown, and we pulled into the dog friendly Crowne Plaza hotel, where the room cost $150, plus $50 for the dog and $36 to park the car. But something, this did not feel as much as the dozens of highway tolls we paid all day long.

We had a dinner date with lindsay tanner and paul driscoll, old friends from my days as a reporter in Chicago. Lindsay is Miranda's godmother. I took Cappy for a stroll through Greektown before dinner.

Tomorrow, we have about a 12-hour campaign to Fargo. I'm thinking of offering Miranda money if we can get on the road by 9 am.

West to Greatness!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Journey across America, Day I

Day one of our drive from waterville, maine, to spokane went off with nary a hitch. After spending the night in the kind of hotel where Earl Hickey and Randy might live, I was picked up by Miranda at 8:30 a.m. and we drove down to Portland, Maine, with Miranda at the wheel.

Being poorly prepared, we realized that we had no maps in her car, so we had to sort of wing it to get where we wanted to go.

We drove through New Hampshire to the Massachusetts Turnpike, and across that state. However, my desire to glimpse the many historic cities along the way was thwarted because you cant see anything beyond the lush forests that line the highway.

after paying what seemed about $100 in tolls, we crossed into New York state and motored through Albany. we stopped at these spectacular places along the New York Thruway that included numerous restaurants, bathrooms and gas stations. That made for 20 minute pit stops in which all major business was completed, and we tore through the miles.

I drove for several hours from near Albany to Buffalo, then Miranda made the final push from Buffalo to a strange little town called North East, just outside Erie, where we had a reservation for the night. The whole place looked deserted, except for some ominous locals, and the only place we could find to eat dinner was a Subway. I, of course, fretted loudly over this distressing turn of events. The reason I love to stay in chain hotels is they are surrounded by chain restaurants and other chain stores, and that makes me feel safe. If you have to navigate the dangers of local businesses, then this whole tourist thing have to be re-evaluated.

anyway, we visit a friend of Miranda's in Cleveland tomorrow, then on to Chicago for a night of eating at the Greek Islands and reminiscing about the past.

Friday, May 15, 2009

the end is near

Continuing my quest to protect right living, I wrote this recent story about efforts to ban smoking of golf courses. You heard that right. Don't worry, I am fighting for all of us

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) _ For the cigar-smoking golfer, 18 holes and a stogie rank with peanut butter and jelly or gin and tonic among life's ideal combinations.
¶ That's why recent efforts across the country to ban smoking on public golf courses are being greeted by those players like a triple bogey. In the balance between individual rights and public health, weekend duffers feel authorities have become unreasonable.
¶ The city of Spokane just tried to ban smoking on its four public golf courses, only to be stymied by an outcry from players and smoking rights advocates.
¶ "Golf and cigars go together like a hand in a glove," said Dale Taylor of Tacoma, president of the Cigar Association of Washington, a smokers' rights groups. "That may be the only time some people smoke."
¶ Washington state is among the least hospitable places for smokers, with no smoking allowed in any public indoor space, or outside within 25 feet of a door or window. But the proposed smoking ban on public links has struck a nerve, in part because of the vastness of golf courses. Playing a typical 18-hole course, such as Downriver in Spokane, means traveling easily more than three miles.
¶ "If I was just walking and somebody was 300 feet away, I'm bothering them?" avid smoker and golfer Greg Presley told the Spokane parks board during a public hearing. "We've got to have some common sense."
¶ Evidence of the illnesses caused by second-hand smoke has led to widespread bans on indoor smoking nationwide in recent decades. The great outdoors is now at the forefront of campaigns led by smoking opponents, and hundreds of places ban it in outdoor restaurants, parks and beaches, said Annie Tegan, of the Seattle office of Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, which seeks to limit smoking.
¶ Because bans are enacted at the local and state levels, it is difficult to determine their exact number of them. Tegan knew of about a dozen communities that have banned smoking on public golf courses, including San Francisco, Glendale and Pasadena in California; Hawaii County, Hawaii; Bloomington, Minn.; Goshen, Ind.; Abilene, Texas; and Arvada, Colo.
¶ The Hilo Municipal Golf Course is the only public course on the big island of Hawaii, and last year's ban on smoking in all public parks, beaches and other recreation facilities has not been popular, said assistant pro Sharol Ayai.
¶ "There's big-time complaining," Ayai said. "The golfers will still smoke because most feel it is unfair. We all pay taxes."
¶ Ayai said the ban, which does not apply to private golf clubs, has not had much impact on the number of rounds played at the course, in part because it is ignored.
¶ Some communities that tried to ban smoking on golf courses, like Thousand Oaks, Calif., relented after complaints by golfers, whose fees support the facilities.
¶ "You really have to stretch things to imagine you are offending anybody when you are outside smoking cigars," said Gordon Mott, executive editor of Cigar Aficionado magazine, which includes a monthly feature on smoking and golf.
¶ Some non-smokers oppose outdoor smoking bans as intrusive government.
¶ "It's a disgusting habit, but people have a right to make choices," Spokane resident Joel Bark told the local Parks Board during the public hearing.
¶ Patrick Reynolds of the Foundation for a Smokefree America acknowledged that moving the anti-smoking fight from indoors to outdoors was "cutting edge."
¶ "But these are in fact reasonable laws," Reynolds, grandson of tobacco pioneer R.J. Reynolds, said. "Second-hand smoke causes lung cancer."
¶ The bans also are aimed at reducing litter, he said.
¶ Smoking bans also have been imposed on spectators at pro golf tournaments. Last month, there was a no-smoking zone for the first time at the Masters. The U.S. Open in 2008 at Torrey Pines banned smoking by spectators because San Diego had banned smoking in its parks, beaches and public golf courses. But players were allowed to smoke.
¶ With little advance notice, the Spokane parks board voted in March to ban smoking in all city parks, including golf courses. An existing law already prevented people from smoking near playgrounds, swimming pools or other parks facilities, so the board didn't think many would care when it decided to ban smoking entirely, parks spokeswoman Nancy Goodspeed said.
¶ They were wrong.
¶ The outcry from smokers and libertarians was swift, and prompted the board in April to stay the ban on golf courses while it studies the issue further.
¶ "We heard from everyone and their brother, on both sides," Goodspeed said.
¶ The board will wait for people to calm down before taking up the issue of smoking on golf courses again, she said, adding that may be a year or more.
¶ Presley, who said he has smoked and played golf for five decades, hopes it never comes up again.
¶ "There's plenty of fresh air out there to share," Presley said. "Everyone pays taxes."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Hawaiian Shirts, the Story

Here is a copy of a story that I wrote that moved this week on the national wires, explaining the importance of Hawaiian shirts:

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) _ Spring is here, and that means the season has arrived for tropical print camp shirts, better known as Hawaiian shirts.
¶ After a harsh winter, a change of attire can spark a change of attitude.
¶ "The minute you put them on, you feel a little more relaxed," said Doug Wood, chief operating officer of Seattle-based Tommy Bahama, one of the nation's top sellers of upscale versions of Hawaiian shirts.
¶ Hawaiian shirts have been riding one of their periodic waves of popularity in recent years, thanks to the influence of surfer chic. Despite their humble 1930s origins and iconoclastic image, Hawaiian shirts are a serious business and subject of academic study. And they are popular everywhere, said Linda Arthur, a textile professor at Washington State University in Pullman who has written several books about Aloha shirts, the preferred name among aficionados.
¶ "The Aloha shirt has covered the globe," Arthur said.
¶ Aloha shirts were invented in the 1930s, when mom-and-pop tailors in Hawaii began making Western-style garments out of a common material, colorful Japanese kimono fabric. The shirts at first were sold to tourists, but eventually caught on with locals.
¶ Students at the prestigious Punahou School on Oahu, whose graduates include President Obama, started ordering such shirts to wear at school functions.
¶ The shirt industry grew during World War II, when products from the mainland were in short supply in Hawaii and people had to create their own fabrics and make their own clothes, Arthur said.
¶ This sparked the heyday of Hawaiian shirt genius Alfred Shaheen, who developed methods that allowed the shirts to explode with multiple colors and built his own fabric factory.
¶ Shaheen, who died last December at 86, is crediting with transforming the shirts from tacky souvenirs into works of art, and spurring mass production. Brightly colored rayon shirts made by Shaheen and others in the 1940s and 1950s, known as Silkies, have become collector's items, selling for thousands of dollars today.
¶ Manufacturers at that time tried to make Hawaiian shirts cut especially for ladies, but found that many women preferred wearing the men's cut. In that respect, the shirts were gender-bending, Arthur said.
¶ The Aloha shirt also played a role in one of the most popular workplace innovations, casual Fridays. The city of Honolulu decided in 1965 that it was OK for employees to wear Aloha shirts to city offices, laying the groundwork for a trend that later swept the nation.
¶ "Now the average man in Hawaii wears an Aloha shirt every day," Arthur said.
¶ Not everyone is a fan. Glenn O'Brien, style columnist for GQ magazine, believes Hawaiian shirts lost much of their artistry when they went mass market.
¶ "At best they are a `go to hell' item, like wild colored country club pants, that assert a man's token rebellion against conformity," O'Brien wrote in an e-mail. They are not appropriate outside of pool or beach parties, and for no office unless it "sells ukuleles or mai tais," he said.
¶ "I think they often represent a sort of desperation for leisure," O'Brien said. "I think of the doctors from `MASH' wearing them as they drink their martinis before the next load of wounded comes in."
¶ The shirts are loved or reviled from Moscow, Russia, to Moscow, Idaho. A recent heated debate on Russia.com involved why men wear "awful Hawaiian shirts."
¶ "They are incredibly ugly and make men look effeminate," complained a poster named Irinka.
¶ That prompted a person named Apache to post the famous Nick Nolte arrest photo, with the disheveled actor displaying wild hair and an impressive Hawaiian shirt. "You call THAT effeminate?" Apache asked.
¶ Hawaiian shirts loom large in popular culture. The movie "From Here to Eternity," set in Hawaii, featured stars like Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra and Ernest Borgnine wearing the shirts. Elvis Presley wore a Shaheen-designed red one for the cover of his 1961 album "Blue Hawaii."
¶ President Harry S. Truman was a noted Hawaiian shirtman. Al Pacino rocked one in "Scarface." The character of Cosmo Kramer from "Seinfeld" wore them.
¶ Homer Simpson perhaps distilled the essence of the shirts when he told Marge: "There's only two kinds of guys who wear Hawaiian shirts: gay guys and big, fat party animals."
¶ California surfers of the 1960s embraced the shirts at a time that saw more abstract designs and unusual styles, including a cropped Hawaiian shirt called a jack-shirt that fit like an Eisenhower jacket. The 1970s brought a focus on ethnic designs and patterns, and the '80s brought Tom Selleck in "Magnum, P.I."
¶ Selleck wore them so well that entrepreneur Greg Chambers was moved to start a mail order company called Mad Gringo.
¶ "Thomas Magnum is the male species at its most potent," Chambers said, even though Magnum took the radical step of tucking his shirts in _ a move not recommended today.
¶ Wearing Hawaiian shirts pays immediate dividends, said Chambers, who operates his company from Omaha, Neb., "the middle of the big island."
¶ "People are nicer to you. They speak slowly and tend to enunciate, and everyone says `Nice shirt!"' Chambers said. "It's the only article of clothing that men can compliment one another on and still sound macho."
¶ Chambers said he keeps 10 to 12 Hawaiian shirts in rotation at all times, and believes every man should own at least two.
¶ "If you own just one, people tend to say `there's Jim in the party shirt ... again,'" Chambers said. "And if you stretch beyond three, people start in on the `it's so sad to see someone give up like that. His poor wife!'"
¶ The nation's rising affluence in the 1990s sparked a demand for high-end Hawaiian shirts, often now called "Resort Wear." Many of those '60s surfers eventually ended up in the Silicon Valley, where their relaxed clothing style became the de facto work uniform of the dot-com revolution, Arthur said.
¶ That prompted a group of business people in Seattle to launch Tommy Bahama, a clothing company built on the image of a fictional Hawaiian shirtman living in a cabana house with no worries, but selling shirts for $100 or more.
¶ Whether wearing a Hawaiian shirt to work is acceptable depends on where one lives. On the West Coast, it's nothing special. In the buttoned down East Coast, it marks one as dressing outside the box, Wood said.
¶ Tommy Bahama got a boost when actor Bruce Campbell, of the hit TV show "Burn Notice," wore his personal collection of their shirts exclusively in his role as Sam.
¶ "I am a Tommy Bahama guy," Campbell told reporters recently. "Tommy Bahama, write that down, because we want a bunch of free shirts."
¶ Campbell got his wish. The company struck a deal to provide the show with clothes.
¶ Campbell aside, Hawaiian shirts may be heading into a period of decline, after a long period of rising sales, Wood said.
¶ "It seems to be a polo time," he said.
¶ One reason is that, try as they might, most men can only own so many Hawaiian shirts, he said. On the other hand, when a Hawaiian shirt design melds into a perfect blend of colors and patterns, all bets are off.
¶ "I don't care if the market is hot or not," Wood said. "I can't make enough of them. They blow out of stores."
¶ ^___=
¶ On the Web:
¶ History: http://www.alohafunwear.com/hawaiian-shirts-history.shtml
¶ Hawaiian shirt mail order: www.madgringo.com

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Nice sentiment

This Margaritaville sign on the roof of the sports bar across the street from my office is a nice thought. But with highs only in the 40s and cold rain pelting us this April 28, it just doesn't seem like Jimmy Buffett country up here in Spokane. It's more like Seattleville than Margaritaville.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hawaiian Shirtman

The man. The new shirt. The legend.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Tennis Studs

You have your New York Yankees, your Boston Celtics, your Gonzaga Bulldogs. You also have your SAC-Geranios tennis team. Yes, the 3.0 boys from the Spokane Athletic Club have once again qualified for the playoffs in the Tri-Cities, something we have done every year but one since 1999.
Our 4-1 victory over Alf's North Park team last night provided the mortar that built our legacy to new heights. Here is the blow-by-blow:
Steve Lamberson waltzed to victory in No. 1 singles, despite a pre-match bout of low confidence that was unwarranted.
Chris ``Grinder'' Flanagan needed a third set tie-breaker to work his magic at No. 2 singles. Excellent work.
Mark Connelly and John Siok had some trouble at No. 1 doubles, and I'm not just talking about Mark's shirt. They fought valiantly in defeat, and we are still proud to call them brother.
Kevin O'Neill and Bruce Johnson treated their opponents in No. 2 doubles the way a puppy treats the floor. Really, gentlemen, you could have taken your feet off the gas pedal for just a moment, lest the tennis world think you are shorter, whiter and less buff Venus and Serena Williams hiding out in Spokane.
In No. 3 doubles, the father-son team of Nick Geranios and Sonny Boy (real name: Kon) needed a third set tie-breaker and lots of helpful tips from Dad to Sonny to beat their scrappy opponents. Afterwards, Sonny asked me never to talk to him again in that tone of voice. I ask you, did Nick Bolletieri hold his tongue when molding young Agassi? I think not.

Alas, despite going 4-1 on the year with one match left, many of us will not actually we able to appear in the Tri-Cities for the playoffs. for my part, i have to go to waterville, Maine to watch my daughter graduate from college that weekend.

Friday, April 10, 2009

We win again

Team Geranios posted another victory last weekend, avenging our only league tennis loss to North Park-Palmer. As usual, Bruce and Nick shined in doubles, as did Mark and Dr. Sam. Kevin was a big singles winner. Steve took it to a tiebreaker before falling in singles. Jeff and Kon played hard in their doubles loss. We are 3-1 and a strong bet for the playoffs.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The End of the Dream

After opening the Seniors tournament in the Tri-Cities with four consecutive victories, our team's dreams crashed to Earth on Sunday afternoon. We lost 2-1 to a team from the Tri-Cities, which dropped us into a tie with Wenatchee for first place. Because of a ridiculous tie-breaking procedure, Wenatchee (a team we beat) advances to the next round of the playoffs in Sun River, Oregon.

What a load of crap.

But it was a fun weekend of play for all of us. I am going to forsake my custom of awarding pink tennis skirts to the losers of key matches, because I would have to wear one. Lets just give a hearty well done to Captain Bruce, the two Kevins, Brad, Grover and Chris, plus lovable mascot Gus.
The photo shows (front row from left) Chris, Gus, Bruce and Kevin O'Neill. Back row Grover, Kevin Kavanaugh, Me, and Brad

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Seniors tennis

I'm playing in my first senior tennis tournament in the tri-cities this weekend. Seniors means people must be at least 50 to play. You may have heard I just topped that milestone.
Anyway, our team beat our first opponents 3-0, behind stunning performances by Kevin O'Neill and Bruce Johnson, myself and Mark (Grover Cleveland) Connelly, and Chris Flanagan and Brad Carr.

We are calling Mark ``Grover'' because he had grown out a thick beard, and then shaved clean the area around his chin, so he has these gigantic mutton chops that curl above his lick, and make him look like an 18th century guy.

We had out second match on Saturday morning, and this was a little tougher. Grover and I romped to victory, proving that it is better to be a young senior than an old one. But Bruce and Kevin needed a third set tiebreak and the grace of God to outlast their opponents. Our third doubles team, Kevin Kavanugh and Chris, tasted the foul flavor of defeat, partaking from the same nasty buffett table as the Zags did last night against North Carolina.

We play the feared Wenatchee guys at 6:30 tonight.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Prayer for the Zags

Our Father, who art at Jack n' Dan's, please help thy Zags avoid yet another one-and-done appearance in the NCAA tournament. Allow them to shoot, rebound and pass on Akron, thus closing the zipper on the Zips' foreskins. May we witness a parade of stuffs, dunks and breakaways not seen since Memphis was in town. And while you're at it, Heavenly Father, please rain misfortune upon thy Washington Huskies, who so feareth the Zags that they prefer to play Texas Southern, Kentucky Eastern or Little Sistereth of the Poor instead. And continue smiling on the Idaho Vandals, who playeth in some tournament no one has ever heard of. And please console thy Washington State with a promise of another deep run in the NCAAs next year, but only if they follow the mandates of St. Tony of the Palouse.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Nickfest, the Movie

Director Carey Williams captured these magical scenes from Nickfest

Tennis Match No. 2

Team Geranios went into action for the second time this season on Sunday, one day after the epic blowout known as Nickfest. This time, the results were nerve-wracking, and not just from too much time spent in the company of Jose Cuervo.
Player Kon Geranios was having a little too much fun on his vacation and didn't make it back to Spokane in time for the match, so we had to forfeit the No. 2 singles position. That put us in the hole before we ever swung a racket.
Here's how the match played out against our long-time rivals, the Lismanis team from North Park:

No. 1 singles: Kevin O'Neill again had a huge game, winning in two sets despite a very busy and energetic previous night. Viva Viagra.

In No. 1 doubles, the pretty boy team of Bruce Johnson and Nick Geranios had to get mighty ugly after dropping the first set to a couple of players who were having trouble detecting when our balls landed directly on the white lines. After a series of questionable calls, Geranios diplomatically went looking for a club pro to monitor the match and improve everyone's vision. The stalwart lads won the second set 7-5 to tie it up. We prevailed in the tense third set tiebreaker, making it interesting when Bruce double faulted on match point.

No. 2 doubles: Alas, we need a couple of skirts to outfit the team of Chris Flanagan and Steve Lamberson, who were shot down by their opponents. Remember to get matching skirts boys, and add those little ruffled tennis panties to give the crowd a thrill.

In No. 3 doubles, thespian John Siok showed no ill effects from his extended run in the cast of Ham on Regal. With partner Ken Hunt, the biker boys toughed out a tight two-set victory.

That gave our team a 3-2 match win, a solid foundation for making the playoffs.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Chronicle of Nickfest

And so Nickfest officially ended on Saturday evening with a big old bash at my house. The year-llong celebration leading to my 50th birthday had a memorable finale, to make up for what I considered somewhat tepid enthusiasm for the 12 months of pre-functions. The party had a Caribbean theme, reflecting my love of Jimmy Buffett. But we mixed things up a bit by demanding Hawaiian shirts and leis of the participants.

Here is a pix of me cuttin' the rug with Mariel and Heather, while the lead singer of P.F. Flyer unleashes some classic rock.

Rather than spend a lot of time crafting a well-written report, I'm going to take the old journalistic trick of just writing a list.

1, Best Hawaiian shirt awards, as selected by me, went to Carmen Yount for women and Jeff Gillespie for men. I salute you, and may the dung of a thousand parrots descend on those who wore regular clothes.

2, Band members Jeff Gravelle and Darren Young, along with the other musicians whose names I do not remember, should consider quitting their day jobs and go on the road full-time. The set list was awesome, starting with ``Play That Funky Music'' and ending with ``Shook Me All Night Long.'' One criticism: ``Super Freak'' should be played every night.

3, Thanks to those who ignored my wife's unfortunate note on the invitation that there be no presents. To Aaron, Charlie and Mark, your thoughtful gifts of cigars will be savored in coming weeks. Special thanks to Charlie, who arranged his five cigars in an ascending order of length, representing the decades of my life. The smallest cigar represented years 1-10, the slightly longer cigar covered years 10-20, etc. My only criticism with this poetic gesture is that the cigar representing the current period is not long enough.

4, Carey's gift of framed Buffett album covers was huge; thanks to the DeWalts for the big poster of the smokin' hot bikini babe that I immediately mistook for a picture of Ann; and the many bottles of fine libations will not be wasted. The used golf club from Bruce will be remarked upon no more.

5, Apologies to all for abandoning the bar I had set up in the party room so I could dance. I was a pretty crappy bartender, anyway, as I think the margaritas were too weak, judging by the lack of vomiting.

6, Thanks to all who brought that great food, especially Brian Buck for pulled pork and Korean beef lettuce wraps. Ann deserves special celebration for cooking up hot wings, meatballs, mango salsa, and other foods, making the drink menu, hiring the band, setting up the party room, cleaning the house and making sure everyone had a good time. She made it all look easy, so easy in fact that I see no reason why it can't be an annual event. Here's looking forward to Nickfest 51 next March.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Another USTA season begins

The U.S. Tennis Association season began for my team on Saturday, and the results were impressive. Here is the rundown:
In No. 1 singles, Kevin ``Mustang Sally'' O'Neill gutted out a third set tiebreak win, showing the intestinal fortitude that later allowed him to digest dinner at Rancho Viejo. Kudos to Kevin, except for the second set.
In No. 2 singles , Chris Flanagan romped to a straight-set victory, proving that being a high school girls tennis coach does not necessarily mean the end of your athletic career. Chris' match was over so quickly that he could have consumed a six-pack watching the rest of us, EXCEPT THE CLUB STOPPED SERVING AT 7 P.M.!
In No. 1 doubles, Mark Connelly and Sam Joseph had some tense moments at the end, and not just because Mark was wearing an electric lime green Toucan Sam shirt. Congrats to them, and as for their opponents, Brad, we know you'll club them in the Tri-Cities.
In No. 2 doubles, the pretty boy team of myself and Bruce Johnson proved that, unlike Anna Kournikova, we've got sex appeal and game. Bruce also showed courage when he won his final service game despite pulling a muscle in his forearm (the monkus spankius muscle, which can take years to heal). Lets give it a rest before next weekend.
In No. 3 doubles, Ken Hunt took the court despite three broken ribs from skiing into a tree. He and Jeff Johnson almost pulled off a win before dropping the third set tie-break. For posting our only loss, they will both have to wear skirts to our next match on Sunday. Remember to accessorize, gentlemen.
Finally, I've received some complaints about our team rules during the season. It seems that some of the players are refusing to give up smoking, drinking, gambling and sex until the end of May. You know who you are, and you should be ashamed of yourselves.
However, like President Obama, I want to bring the audacity of hope to our team. So screw the rules and do what you want. It's working so far.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

We've lost the R Bar

Tragic news this morning out of Bozeman, Mont. The landmark Rocking R Bar downtown was among numerous businesses destroyed in an explosion. The Rocking R is well-known to many people in this region, and was a frequent haunt of Montana State students such as myself. The cause of the explosion was not immediately known, but I suspect terrorists from the University of Montana.
Authorities say the explosion destroyed four businesses, of which only three were bars. For that we can be thankful.

Many of you may have seen, or even own, a Rocking R baseball cap. They are very popular. My suggestion would be to put it on tonight, open a cold one, and tip it back in honor of the R Bar.

I went to the bar's web site at http://rockingrbar.com/ but there was no information about the explosion. But I did see that this would have been $2 margarita night, which only makes the disaster worse.

FYI, the bar contained a branch of Bozeman's famous Pickle Barrel sandwich chain. So the loss is even greater than previously imagined.

Maybe the owners could throw up a big canvas tent, like in pioneer days, and open atop the rubble. It's a thought.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Looming Apocalypse

Those who have driven the lonely border region between Montana and Idaho on Interstate 90 know that the 10,000 Silver $ roadhouse has long been an oasis for bad food, crummy souvenirs and stingy video poker machines. In other words, it is a holy place.
Imagine my shock last week when I was driving towards Missoula and started seeing billboards for something called the 50,000 Silver $. Shock turned to horror as I approached the roadhouse and saw that it's familiar sign had indeed gone up 40,000 additional silver dollars.
I went inside to demand an explanation.
I stopped first in the bar, where I emptied some quarters I had coincidentally brought along into a poker machine and commenced to lose them. A young Asian woman was playing the machine next to me, and kept asking for help in deciphering the graphics to determine which cards to hold and which to discard. While she was having some trouble reading English, she was having no trouble with poker strategy and kept piling up points.
When I was out of money, I walked over to the bartender and learned that the name change reflected that many more people had donated silver dollars, which were mounted and displayed up the walls of the high-ceilinged bar. She told me the place originally started as the 2,000 Silver $, and the 10,000 name had remained for decades despite being inaccurate.
Now you know.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Daily Grind

Some people think covering college sports is a bunch of fun. But as these photos show, it is more akin to working in a mine. Here are pictures of me pounding away on deadline at recent Gonzaga games. One photo also shows my trusty sidekick Carey, who is keeping an eye on the action so we don't miss a key play. If the game is boring, he's mostly on the lookout for MILFs. After each game Carey goes down and talks to the losing team and I talk with the Zags.
The other photo shows me reading through my copy while Gonzaga alum John Stockton keeps people from approaching me. Stockton blew most of his NBA salary and now works as a security guard at Gonzaga games. He also makes coffee runs for us. (I hope people realize I am just kidding. Stockton is waiting to go to his seat).
Anyway, the deadline pressure is huge and the opportunities to screw up are many. But I am up to the challenge, and someday Carey will be also.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Nailing Nickfest

It looks like Nickfest will be the afternoon of March 14, with a Jimmy Buffett theme! More details will be sent soon. I invite faithful readers of this blog, both of you, to also visit my facebook page as that is where the most timely information is getting posted these days. There is only so much time in the day that I can spend talking about myself, and facebook seems to be getting most of it.

The photo shows an actual Parrot Head from Jimmy's concert in Las Vegas last October, and is suggested Nickfest apparel for the ladies.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Nickfest Update

Nickfest is rapidly approaching. I turn 50 on March 9, and the extended carnival that will accompany this historic event is in the process of taking shape.
Sadly, the worldwide economic woes will no doubt take a chunk out of Nickfest.
There are unlikely to be helicopters, roulette tables or a personal appearance by Jimmy Buffett.
But the party must go on!
In the spirit of our austere times, it may end up being beer, a homemade cake and cigars. But dancing is free!
There are some potential downers on the horizon. The Cougs are floundering, and may not make the NCAA tournament. My sore back is endangering the upcoming USTA team tennis season. And I have to cover an execution in Walla Walla on March 13 (a Friday!). Nothing gives you an appreciation of life quite like watching the state end someone else's.
To my friends I say, keep the 9th open. details will follow.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

High in the 70s

On my drive to work today, I saw billboards advertising upcoming shows in Spokane by Cheech and Chong, and Blondie. Maybe I'll survive this winter after all.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The January of our Discontent

It's Jan. 16 and the record-breaking snow that has turned us into a city of trolls is now frozen solid to the ground and getting dirtier by the day. On the other hand, both the Zags and the Cougs are winning. One photo shows the fog that has enveloped Spokane and made driving even more interesting on the icy streets. The other shows my driveway, where one could skate to the street even though I've been smashing the ice like a Coast Guard icebreaker for weeks

Friday, January 2, 2009

Another pile

Another major snowstorm hit spokane early this morning and we're digging out again. The pictures show the view from my front door, and also the pile on my roof. There is also a photo of Miranda's dog Cappy, who refused to go out in the snow so I could get a snow bunny picture of her.